Prestigious jazz concert a coup for Vicksburg

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 16, 2009

An annual event, the 29th Alcorn Jazz Festival will entertain, educate and exhilarate audiences throughout the day and into the night in the Vicksburg Convention Center Saturday.

Often credited with being the place where the term jazz was coined, it is fitting that Vicksburg hosts this esteemed event. Vicksburg’s history, its contributions to this genre of music, is impressive. Perhaps one of the most notable facts, is that Vicksburg is the birthplace and childhood home of jazz bassist and photographer Milt Hinton, aka “The Judge.”

Hinton’s revered percussive “slapping” technique kept him in demand. He recorded and performed with virtually every top artist in jazz, joining the celebrated Cab Calloway Orchestra in 1935 and later with Branford Marsalis. He attributed the longevity of his career to the magnificent sound of his rare Gofriller Double Bass, discovered in a cellar in Italy.

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Journaling his life with great jazz musicians on the road and in recording sessions rendered a collection of more than 35,000 photographs. This exceptional man’s art and music is collected, exhibited and appreciated around the world. Milt Hinton passed away in 2000 at the age of 90.

Keeping the great jazz tradition alive, the ASU Jazz Festival delivers an outstanding component in building awareness and appreciation for this important music. Fulfilling his mission to present jazz education and stellar entertainment, Dr. David Miller, the event’s director, delivers with resounding results. Each year Dr. Miller’s efforts garner praise throughout the national and international world of jazz.  His work also delivers an unprecedented coup to Vicksburg.

We’re honored to be selected as the host city. This is precisely the type of event we strive to present in Vicksburg, giving our city yet another edge by offering high quality art and entertainment. Creating, fostering and promoting events of this caliber, which have the potential and capacity to attract visitors, translate into economic development, and more opportunities for our businesses throughout the city.

Beginning at 9 a.m., a dozen jazz ensembles from schools and colleges from the region will perform. These young musicians will amaze you with their talent and commitment to their art. Some are destined to become rising stars in this essential music genre.

At sunset, around 7, Vicksburg will become the setting for magnificent talent usually heard on stages and venues in the big city. The “Jazz Educators,” an exceptional ensemble from the region, offer the evening’s opening act. 

Then, at 8, the event’s guest artists, five of the most dynamic musicians in jazz today, take the stage. Making history in the music world, this hand-picked, all-star, all-female quintet will perform together for the first time, anywhere, ever. Bravo! Dr. Miller.

On the stage will be:

• Dee Bridgewater, vocals.  Bridgewater is an actress, R&B, hip-hop, and jazz singer. With a career dating to 1966, she has performed with many of the great jazz musicians.For her role in the Broadway musical “The Wiz,” she won a Tony in 1975 as Glinda the Good Witch,  and in 1976 a Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album. Bridgewater’s 1997 tribute “Dear Ella” won her the 1998 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album.

• Esperanza Spalding, bass, vocals. By the time Spalding was 5, she had taught herself to play the violin. She played with the Chamber Music Society of Oregon until she was 15, and left as concertmaster.

Appearing at the White House in February, she performed with a cavalcade of musicians, including India Arie, Diana Krall and Tony Bennett, honoring Stevie Wonder, and celebrating his receipt of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. At 24, Spalding is one of the greatest new talents on the jazz scene today. 

• Terri Lyne Carrington, drums. Carrington is a musician, composer, and record producer. She has played with jazz legends Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Joe Sample, Al Jarreau, Cassandra Wilson, David Sanborn and many more.  She gained recognition on late-night TV as the house drummer for “The Arsenio Hall Show,” then again in the late 1990s as the drummer on “VIBE,” hosted by Sinbad.

In May 2007, she appeared at the Atlanta Jazz Festival, one of the other large free jazz festivals in the United States.

• Geri Allen, piano. Allen is a jazz, blues, funk, gospel and post bop jazz pianist, producer, and music educator. She has worked with many of the greats of modern jazz.

• Grace Kelly, alto sax. Now just 16 and setting the jazz world on fire, Grace is already the recipient of many prestigious awards and has performed in many important venues in the United States, Europe and Asia.  Wynton Marsalis said, “Grace Kelly plays with intelligence, wit and feeling. She has a great amount of natural ability and the ability to adapt that is the hallmark of a first-class jazz musician.”

The ASU Jazz Festival is free and open to the public. For more information, visit


Shirley Waring is president of the Vicksburg Heritage League.